Weather slowed emergency response to Heeney cabin destroyed in blaze last week

First crews did not arrive on scene until more than 40 minutes after receiving notice of the fire.

No one was injured when a fire destroyed a cabin in Heeney on Saturday, Dec. 30, but the emergency response was slowed by weather and other circumstances, according to Summit Fire & EMS.

Emergency responders received notice of a fire alarm at 83 Lake View Drive, also known as County Road 1751, in Heeney around 3:50 p.m., Steve Lipsher, a spokesperson for Summit Fire said. The first unit did not arrive on scene until 4:37 p.m.

“By the time (our battalion chief)] got to Silverthorne Elementary, we got a report via dispatch that the cabin was fully involved in flames,” Lipsher said. “Even delays in getting to the scene, even snowy roads, wasn’t going to make a difference in them saving that cabin I’m afraid.”

A blaze destroyed a cabin in Heeney Friday, Dec. 30, 2022.
Marsha Dirienzo/Courtesy photo

The cabin was located down a steep, narrow side street in a remote part of the county, according to Lipsher, and the weather that day made for slick conditions and difficult access, slowing the response time.

But the response was also delayed because the fire district’s two nearest units — based out of Frisco and Dillon — were tied up with other incidents at the time the fire was called in, Lipsher said. So the first crews summoned included those based out of Keystone and Copper Mountain as well as a crew from the Red, White and Blue Fire District in Breckenridge. The first arriving crews were also directed to the north access of the road, he said, even though the south access would have been about 10 minutes faster.

The Frisco unit was able to head to the fire after clearing the call for service that had originally tied it up, and that crew was the first to arrive on scene, according to Summit Fire. That first engine immediately dumped the 500 gallons of water it was carrying on the blaze and nearby exposed trees, but it was out of water within minutes, Lipsher said. There were no nearby structures.

Since Heeney lacks fire hydrants, two water tenders — firefighting vehicles that hold about 5,000 gallons of water — had to be deployed. These vehicles required chains to gain access to the cabin, according to Lipsher, further slowing the response.

In all, about 30 firefighters responded, dumping about 7,000 gallons of water on the fire. The last unit left the scene around 11:45 p.m., Lipsher said. The cabin was uninhabited at the time of the fire, he said, and the owner told crews the building had been in his family for decades. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Lipsher said Summit Fire & EMS regularly communicates with residents of remote areas like Heeney that when fires break out, firefighters will respond, but it may take crews some time to arrive. Residents’ first priority should always be safety, he said.

“It’s not comfortable for anyone,” Lipsher said. “But it’s a reality we all live with.”

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